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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Slowing down on roundabouts

Roundabouts


The state of Wisconsin seems to be on a roundabout binge. The philosophy of the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is that whenever major intersection improvements on state roads or four-way stops are planned, the installation of roundabouts must be considered. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on August 24, 2008 that statewide, there are 58 roundabouts open on state and local roads, seven to 10 more are scheduled to open by the end of the construction season, and 140 or more are in various planning stages.

Before the state proceeds with its plan to blanket roadways with roundabouts, it should slow down and I have made that request to the DOT. I have also asked the DOT to rethink the roundabout at Racine Avenue and I-43 in Muskego because of concerns with the roundabout at I-43 and Moorland Road in New Berlin.

The design at the New Berlin roundabout left much to be desired with poor signage and lane markings. There have been a number of accidents at the roundabout, not to mention a high level of anxiety and frustration. There are also complaints about the roundabout on Drexel Avenue in Franklin near Highway 100 and the new Shoppes at Wyndham Village.

Some of my constituents that have corresponded with me about roundabouts have been receptive to the roundabout concept. They agree with the DOT that roundabouts improve safety and reduce crashes. The DOT contends, “Roundabouts move traffic safely through an intersection because of slower speeds, fewer conflict points, and decision-making. Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that roundabouts provide a 90% reduction in fatal crashes, 76% reduction in injury crashes, 30-40% reduction in pedestrian crashes, and a 10% reduction in bicycle crashes.”

However, constituents I have heard from angrily oppose roundabouts. I am very concerned about the danger posed by roundabouts resulting in accidents. There are other concerns including poor signage and lane markings that I have already indicated. What about semi-trailer trucks?  The configuration of roundabouts makes it extremely difficult for semi-trailers, long trucks, campers, and cars with boats to successfully negotiate the turns.

Proponents at the DOT suggest frustrated motorists, in time, and with more education will learn to accept roundabouts.  How does DOT  adequately train the masses, the vast number of motorists on our roadways?  Most of them will never get their hands on a DOT brochure or see a roundabout video on the DOT website.

That is why I suggest the state put the brakes on roundabouts until the kinks can be worked out. The idea is to improve all aspects of roundabouts: design, safety, ease of use. The DOT should bring together special study groups of designers, engineers, and importantly motorists to determine the best model for roundabouts. I have asked the DOT to conduct simulations with a cross-section of Wisconsin drivers and cross-section of vehicles before proceeding further with roundabouts.

Until then, the state should put away the plans to build more and more because the current roundabout design at I-43 and Moorland Road is not ready for prime time.

Major Election Day problems ahead

Photo ID


On February 4, 2008, I agreed with pessimistic forecast that there would be major problems with our elections this year. My blog quoted Dr. Robert A. Pastor, director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University in Washington, DC:

“Voters are likely to face hassles with registration lists and voting machines. Poll workers will remain under-trained and overworked. Election management remains under the thumb of partisan officials, and voter identification is likely to remain problematic. 2008 is unlikely to be an improvement over 2006.”

You can read my entire blog here. 

Seven months later, the Washington Post concurs, reporting that, “election officials across the country are bracing for long lines, equipment failures and confusion over polling procedures that could cost thousands the chance to cast a ballot.” 

The tragedy is that Wisconsin does not require photo ID’s to vote. Governor Doyle and state Senate Democrats killed any chance of a photo ID requirement being in place for the critical November elections when the governor vetoed photo ID legislation three times and Senate Democrats refused to allow a vote on a photo ID constitutional amendment. A common sense photo ID requirement would not be an obstacle to voting or hamper the process. Such a law would be a great step in cleaning up an election system in disrepair.

Photo ID opponents in Wisconsin, albeit a minority, got their wish. Even so, it appears there are going to be  many problems on Election Day, here and across the country.

Clarifying the Move Over Law

News you can use

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The Obama tax shift


Barack Obama’s policies on taxes are difficult to determine. They keep changing all the time. Thankfully, the Wall Street Journal has been keeping track.

First there was what the Journal calls ObamaTax 1.0. Obama would end the Bush tax cuts, raise the cap on wages that come under the payroll tax, place the top marginal rate at 39.8 percent, and increase rates on capital gains and dividends.

This summer came ObamaTax 2.0.  Obama changed his position by lowering the top rate on capital gains.

Now with John McCain and election ads pummeling Obama as a tax-raiser, Obama has revised his tax strategy again. Under ObamaTax 3.0, if the economy is still sputtering at the beginning of 2009, President Obama might, the operative word being might, forego all of his earlier proposals calling for big increases.

There is plenty of uncertainty when it comes to Barack Obama’s intentions on taxes. The only certainty appears to be that taxes will go up, and go up a lot.

Here is the Wall Street Journal article.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports John McCain is delivering a simple, easy to understand message on taxes. 

The government knows how much you’re driving


This isn’t exactly a news bulletin.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reports, “S
ince last November, Americans have driven 53.2 billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier – topping the 1970s' total decline of 49.3 billion miles. Americans drove 4.7 percent less, or 12.2 billion miles fewer, in June 2008 than June 2007. The decline is most evident in rural travel, which has fallen by 4 percent – compared to the 1.2 percent decline in urban miles traveled – since the trend began last November.”

Here is the news release from the FHA.

The reasons for the decline are obvious and indisputable: high gasoline prices and a sluggish economy. But how does the federal government know the decline between November 2007 and June 2008 is 53.2 billion miles? How does the federal government arrive at the figure?

The answer is a matter of modern technology and mathematics. States have installed special sensors on our roadways that can determine the amount and size of cars. The data is sent to the feds every month and they do the math.

Read about it in Slate.

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